Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that is triggered by gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. When gluten is consumed, the body produces antibodies to attack the gluten. Unfortunately, these antibodies also attack the lining of the small intestine.
When I was diagnosed in 2000, celiac disease was considered rare (1 out of 5,000 – 10,000), so getting diagnosed was not easy. I had to point the doctors (more like push them) in the right direction. Celiac disease (pronounced see-lee-ak) is considered a genetic disorder. That is what led me discover the source of my problems. I found out that I had an uncle with celiac disease and started searching for information. After reading lists of symptoms online, I knew that was it. In the end, the gastroenterologist said, “You diagnosed yourself.”
Celiac disease is no longer considered rare (1 out of 133). The change came in 2003 when the results of a prevalence study were published.
If you are newly diagnosed, eating gluten free can seem a bit overwhelming. The good news is that with more people being diagnosed, it has become a lot easier. There is a better understanding of what needs to be avoided, better food labeling, and more gluten-free products available. If you’re just starting out on this diet, focus on what you CAN eat. Fruit, vegetables, corn, potatoes, rice, beans, eggs and most meats are a good beginning. Summertime is a great time for gluten-free cooking. Meat cooked on the grill, corn on the cob and a fresh salad make a great meal. I like to marinade chicken breasts in Italian dressing. You do have to be careful about marinades. Always read the labels because most soy and teriyaki sauces contain wheat.
As with anything, it’s important to keep a good attitude. There are many, many people enjoying the gluten-free lifestyle. It’s also important to connect with some of those people. Blogs are a good place to connect, but even better is a local support group. Click here to find one in your area.